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Probate Attorneys in Southern California

At Elder Law Services of California, we pride ourselves in helping clients through difficult times. If a loved one has recently passed away and your family is forced to go through the probate process to settle their estate and distribute their assets and belongings that were left behind, our team is here to help you through the process.

Los Angeles county probate court judge and gavelProbate can be a complicated and stressful process that requires multiple court appointments, filling out detailed forms, and an understanding of legal regulations. In truth, the entire process can be a “legal nightmare” for the layperson, and the last thing you may want after the death of a loved one is to deal with the matters of settling their estate. The undertaking is simply too much for an untrained person.

Probate is a tedious situation that requires submitting documents, filing notices, and informing various government agencies of scheduled hearings. There may also be moments where a probate judge or a court representative will ask to review documents, which will leave you scurrying to and from the courts without much notice or time. Hiring a probate attorney, however, will help you skip the courtrooms entirely, as an attorney can handle all those affairs on your behalf.

Have a Los Angeles Probate Attorney Get the Job Done Right

Elder Law Services will protect your home from probate and medi-cal recovery

Probate attorney Judd Matsunaga will help you take possession of the deceased person’s property and provide expert advice regarding estate management. Assets such as bank accounts, securities accounts, deeds to real estate properties, jewelry and other assets will need to be inventoried and appraised during the probate process. Once those items are taken care of, a final distribution of the estate is typically made soon after a federal estate tax return has been filed (generally around nine months after the date of death).

While you are not required to use a lawyer during probate, the entire process is extremely complicated, and any minor omissions or missed deadlines will only slow down or even stop probate in its tracks. That is not to mention how unpopular these mistakes will make you with those beneficiaries waiting for the distribution of the family’s assets.

Best Probate Attorney Near You

Hiring a probate attorney will only provide you with the peace of mind that your family’s affairs are being handled in the proper and most efficient manner possible. If you are searching for a probate attorney, give us a call at Elder Law Services of  California. Once you sit down with our team, if you decide we are a good fit, then Elder Law services will put together a specific plan of action that reflects your family’s desires and wishes as to how the probate process should proceed.

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What Questions Should You Ask a Probate Attorney?

What is probate?
The legal process of distributing a deceased person’s assets and property as decided by the court system (typically to the closest living relatives), after any money that is owed to the government or creditors are paid in full.
How do I avoid probate in California?

In California, you can hold almost any type of asset you own in a living trust to avoid probate.  Stocks, Mutual Funds, Real estate, bank accounts, and even motor vehicles can all be held in a living trust.  A living trust document names yourself as trustee and someone else as the “successor trustee”  who will take over management responsibilities as trustee after you die.

Who initiates probate?
The executor of the will is responsible for starting the probate process, retaining an attorney, and taking caring of all financial obligations the deceased person left behind. An executor is typically named in the will, but if not will is available, the probate court will name a close relative to handle the process.
What happens during probate?
A representative, either the executor named in the will or an individual named by the probate court, will be appointed to disperse real and personal property. This individual also collects debts owed to the deceased. The will is validated by the probate court. If there is no will, then the probate court designates a legal heir (usually a close relative) to serve as the administrator. A list of assets from the estate is presented to the probate court. Beneficiaries named in the will, or heirs-at-law if there is no will, are notified that the probate process is taking place. Creditors are notified of the proceedings so they can file claims for any debts owed to them. State and federal taxes are paid from the estate. Title to decedent’s property, such as real estate, bonds and stocks, are cleared so that the property can be passed onto beneficiaries or sold.
What is not subject to probate?
Any jointly held properties or assets with the right of survivorship (which means ownership is transferred over once someone passes away). However, the property will eventually pass through probate once the surviving owner passes away. Estates with assets valued at under $150,000 and no real property are also not required to pass through probate (depending on the complexity of the estate and assets owned), but will still most likely need to be distributed through a court process that is less strenuous than probate. IRA or retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary and life insurance policies with a designated beneficiary are not subject to probate either.
How long will probate take?
Probate is a complicated issue with many moving parts involved and it can last anywhere from eight months to several years. It can take much longer if the estate is challenged by family members at odds with the decision. Typically, probate will take about eight months to a year, but the exact factors for determining a timeline will depend on each person’s unique situation.
When will our family receive property or assets?
The probate court will not enter an order of distribution allowing assets and property to be transferred to waiting beneficiaries until all the correct paperwork has been approved, and all debts have been paid – including court fees, estate taxes, debts and until all stocks and bonds have been cleared. Again, the timeline will depend on many factors and beneficiaries will have to wait at least eight months after the probate process is started.
Do I need an attorney?

Why hire a probate attorney? While you are not legally required to retain an attorney during probate, the entire court process is complicated and tedious which requires a dedicated attorney who understands probate laws and regulations. Most people do not have the time to make court appearances, gather documents and file the correct paperwork, let alone even have the knowledge to know how to do so correctly. Any missed deadlines or incorrectly file documents will only cause a huge delay in the probate process and keep your family’s assets tied up in court for much longer than they need to be.

Los Angeles probate attorneys help heirs with inheritance
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